Friday, August 23, 2013

Vuelta a España: Stage 1 (TTT) Preview & Favorites

As usually, the Vuelta starts out with a team time trial. This year, the distance is longer than the previous three years and that means we will see much bigger differences in the classification early on.

The teams get to the starting ramp in Vilanova De Arousa by boat and from here the route takes them south towards Sanxenxo. The profile is rather flat - very different from last year - and we can expect the teams with big engines like Omega Pharma Quickstep (Tony Martin) and Radioshack (Fabian Cancellara) to do well. The riders will be enjoying a tailwind for the majority of the route and that too favors the two mentioned teams.

The only technical part of the course is the final two kilometers with a couple of tricky turns but overall, this is not a difficult team time trial.

The map of Stage 1
Click for larger view.
Omega Pharma Quickstep are the defending world champions in this discipline and they have been training hard to defend their title in less than a month in Florence. It’s true they don’t bring all their best time trialists for this Vuelta but with riders like Tony Martin, Kristof Vandewalle, Gianni Meersman and in-shape Zdenek Stybar, they will be very difficult to beat.

The way I see it, only Radioshack and Astana have a chance of beating OPQS. Despite a strong team, Radioshack never really manage to win these stages. However, with Fabian Cancellara, Ben Hermans, Chris Horner and Markel Irizar they definitely bring a solid team. Horner aims at taking the Red Jersey after the uphill finish on Stage 2 and if that is to happen, Radioshack need to put in a strong performance in this time trial.

Astana hope to give Vincenzo Nibali the best start possible with a win on the first day. To achieve that, they bring strong time trialists like Janez Brajkovic, Jakob Fuglsang, Andriy Grivko, Tanel Kangert and Nibali himself. Astana always do well in the team time trials and even though OPQS is the big favorite, I won’t be surprised if Astana wins this stage.

Movistar won the opening stage last year but on a much hillier course. They did well in the Giro d’Italia too but this time they don’t have riders like Alex Dowsett or Jonathan Castroviejo to crank up the speed in the flat parts. They bring a strong team, no doubts about that, but I don’t think it’s strong enough to repeat the impressive win from last year.

Team Saxo-Tinkoff aim at spot close to Top3 but that won’t be easy. They have a couple of solid riders like Roman Kreuziger and Michael Mørkøv but climbers like Rafal Majka, Chris Anker Sørensen and Oliver Zaugg don’t like this discipline. The Danish team may do Top5 but I will be surprised to see them in Top3.

Team Sky won the team time trial in the Giro d’Italia and finished third in the Tour de France this year. However, they don’t have riders like Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome or Richie Porte to keep the speed high this time. It’s true that many of the riders are the same who won the TTT in the Giro but without a real specialist I think Top5 is the best they can do.

Starting Order:
NetApp 18:48
GreenEdge 18:52
Argos-Shimano 18:56
BMC 19:00
Caja Rural 19:04
Cofidis 19:08
Vacansoleil-DCM 19:12
Omega Pharma Quickstep 19:16
Lampre 19:20
AG2R 19:24
Team Saxo-Tinkoff 19:28
Lotto-Belisol 19:32
FDJ 19:36
Team Sky 19:40
Cannondale 19:44
Garmin 19:48
Euskaltel 19:52
Belkin 19:56
Radioshack 20:00
Katusha 20:04
Movistar 20:08
Astana 20:12

Eurosport are covering this year’s Vuelta a España intensively. Before and after each stage you will get inside information from the many interviews with the riders. The interviewer is Spanish journalist Laura Meseguer. She knows what’s going on inside the peloton and each day she will get you her own personal winner picks for the stage.

For the opening Stage 1, Laura picks Movistar to win.

For live coverage of the stage go to

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